Publishers Compromise on Video Quality— and We're All Paying the Price

Many publishers produce video content like robots. The result is something no TV network would ever run

Shaul Olmert 11:2212.11.17

“We are pivoting to video,” said pretty much every online publisher, everywhere. The list includes Mashable, Mic, MTV and many others. The motivation is clear: publishers turn to video for the same reason that people used to rob banks in the 1920s - because that’s where the money is.



In fact, spending on online video in the U.S. is expected to see double-digit growth annually through 2020, according to eMarketer. In an era of banner blindness and content fatigue, video ads drive revenue for publishers, who are ready to create as much inventory as possible. But the “video rush” is another example of a struggling industry resorting to tactical, short-term solutions, and sacrificing its core values.


Shaul Olmert, co-founder and CEO of Playbuzz Shaul Olmert, co-founder and CEO of Playbuzz



Skimming Content


With most readers skimming content, publishers must invest in more visual-first journalism in order to keep readers on-site and expose them to more ads. Unfortunately, this is likely the catalyst to readers seeing video everywhere - including where it doesn’t belong.


Publishers insist on forcing at least one video unit per article, even if it doesn’t contribute to the narrative. In some cases, they even have the audacity to ask users to bear through a 30-second ad, only to watch a few seconds of unrelated video. Short-term cash infusion is achieved at the expense of long-term user loyalty and the publisher's mission of engaging readers in a meaningful way.


The Numbers DO Lie


At first glance, video stats look incredible, and publishers are mesmerized by the rapidly-growing view count. But in reality - most views are on Facebook (instead of the publishers’ sites), are non-monetized, and represent short viewing times.


Many content owners make the age-old mistake of measuring views rather than engagement or completion rates. Once again, quantity triumphs over quality and monetization, leaving publishers with a lot of poorly made content, and very little revenue.



Video Doesn't Come Cheap


It’s hard to create quality video content without committing resources. Production is expensive, time-consuming, and requires a different skillset than journalists typically have. Therefore, many resort to producing simple video clips that lack creativity but are easy to upload.


Publishers still resort to “magical” solutions that produce video like robots. The result is something no TV network would ever use, perpetrated by journalists who treat their online presence so casually as to lower their quality bars.


This process can be likened to how SEO made publishers reformat articles in accordance with what Google feels makes a good piece of content - another example of how publishers became slaves to algorithms and forgot their commitment to editorial excellence.


Embracing Video the Right Way


So where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? It shines for publishers that don’t lose focus in their attempt to keep up with the ever-changing industry. Such publishers invest in original programming and incorporate videos that are relevant to the content they accompany.


When created and distributed wisely, video can be a powerful tool that assists publishers in exposing their content (and their ads) to more eyeballs. But as the publishing arena shifts to new content platforms and tools, it must remain true to its original, important mission of informing, educating, and entertaining the audience.



Shaul Olmert is Co-Founder & CEO of storytelling platform Playbuzz.
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